Tag Archives: U.S. Army

NFL players and other athletes getting it wrong with anthem/flag protests

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A major firestorm broke out in the American professional sports world this past week. That fire took the form of athletes protesting by kneeling, or not showing up at all, at the playing of the United States national anthem prior to games.

The protests were allegedly in response to comments made by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, in regards to a small number of NFL players who had taken part in such protests during the league’s opening week.

Trump stated that NFL owners should fire any player who undertakes such a protest, which he (and many others) deemed disrespectful to our nation. Specifically, the President was quoted:

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’

Various NFL teams responded by protesting the President’s comments in different ways. Some linked arms while the anthem was played. In some of those cases, team owners and other management personnel linked arms with their players in a show of solidarity.

In most cities, some of the players “took a knee”, knelt down in place, as “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played. In other cases, players simply sat on the bench.

In Oakland, rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first, and thus far only, player in Major League Baseball to kneel during the anthem. Maxwell is the son of a United States Army veteran.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers refused to even take the field, choosing to remain in their locker room while the anthem was played.

That action was taken, rather than standing with arms together, after a team vote which was reportedly very close. So they all remained in the locker room. Well, all except one player.

Alejandro Villanueva, a 6’9″, 320-lb offensive tackle, came and stood alone outside the tunnel which leads under the stands to the locker room. He stood honorably, at attention, with his hand over his heart as the anthem was played.

You see, Villanueva is not just a football player. He is also a former U.S. Army Ranger, a Bronze Star recipient, who served three tours in Afghanistan.

Last year, Villanueva spoke publicly about former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who set this anthem protest ball rolling when he knelt as it was played in San Francisco. Kaepernick was protesting what he feels is ongoing racial injustice in America.

Per Greg Norman of Fox News, Villanueva had been quoted by ESPN:

“I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that’s providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year…when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year.”

Villanueva had it absolutely right in my opinion. And I’ll go a step further. Not only is kneeling or sitting during the anthem not “the most effective way” to protest, but it is utterly disrespectful to our nation, and to the men and women who, like Villanueva, have served to protect us all.

You can disagree with the President of the United States all you like. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of NFL players did not support him to begin with, and did not vote for him. As a group, most are already biased in their opinions of him, his policies, and his opinions.

However, where they get it wrong is in thinking that the American flag and the national anthem somehow are symbolic of the Presidency. That protesting as the anthem is being played is a viable protest of the man and/or his office and statements.

If you want to protest the President, pick up a sign and go march outside the White House. If you don’t like something he said, get the leader of your labor organization to request a sit-down with the man, and express your views in that formal manner.

When you kneel at the game as the anthem is being played, you are disrespecting millions of fans around the country. Hundreds of thousands are standing in those NFL stadiums, many with their hands over the hearts, singing the song.

Many of those fans served their country in the armed forces, or their country and/or community in law enforcement. They put on a uniform and put their lives on the line so that our way of life can continue. So that people like those NFL players can enjoy the freedom to make millions of dollars a year playing a game.

Talk to fans who stand at sporting events as the national anthem is played, holding their hats and hands over their hearts. Ask them why they do it. You’ll get similar answers. Love of country. Respect for those who serve. Honor for having served themselves.

There are many problems in America, still the greatest nation in the history of this planet, as we begin to move through the 21st century. There will always be problems. And there will also always be political and social differences of opinion as to how to best address those problems.

But in the end, the bottom line for all of us should be love of our country. Appreciation of the beauty of our Constitution. Respect towards those who have in the past, and those who still do today, courageously battle on the front lines for the rest of us.

You show that love of country, that appreciation for American, and that respect for those who fight our battles in many ways. One small way is to stand respectfully to honor our flag as our anthem is played, whenever and wherever that happens, any time you are able to do so.

When you do anything other than that intentionally, you are doing nothing but showing disrespect. And you are doing nothing other than dishonoring yourself.

NFL players and any other athlete, entertainer, politician, or other U.S. citizen who doesn’t like something that is happening in this country, or something that someone says, should indeed feel welcome to passionately but peacefully protest – in appropriate ways, at appropriate venues.

While hundreds of thousands of fans “live” are being respectful to the flag and anthem, and millions more around the country are tuning in only to watch the athletes perform in their sport, that is not an appropriate time or venue.

To those who would argue “but this is the athlete’s platform, they have to take advantage”, I would say that is a cop out. Games are not an athlete’s platform. The game doesn’t belong to the players, it belongs to us all.

Those games are his or her stage, not their platform or podium. There is a difference. The paying public are their patrons. We should not be subjected to players personal social or political opinions.

If a player wishes to express his or her views in a pre- or post-game interview, and some writer, broadcaster, and publication wishes to give them that time, then that is an appropriate platform.

If a player, on their own time, wishes to pick up a picket sign and march in front of the White House, or their State House, that is fine. If a player wishes to call a press conference to speak on social issues, that is fine. Those are all forms of appropriate protest platforms.

Someone tried to argue to me today that when NFL or MLB players or other athletes wear pink to support the battle against cancer, or make other similar public gestures during games in support of charities, isn’t that them using their platform?

No, it is not. It is the player and organization using our platform to raise awareness, and possibly funding, to battle illness and disease. Are you trying to argue that there is someone out there who is offended by a battle against cancer? Ludicrous to even compare the two issues.

Now, if players believe that there is systemic racism in sports and American society, and wish to band together and all wear black bands, or patches, or whatever, then that is fine. It doesn’t offend any reasonable person.

But while you are wearing your pink wrist bands or cleats, or protesting with your black arm band, stand for your national anthem, and put your hand over your heart for your flag. Show America that we are all Americans, and no matter what issues may divide us, that bottom line will always remain the single most important thing that brings us together.

Honor America. Stand for the anthem. Put your hand and hat over your heart for the flag. If you can, sing the song. Those who want respect, give respect. It’s an idea that is as old as time, and one that we need to begin showing to one another, no matter who occupies the White House, or what they may say or what policies they may pursue.

The terrible trade of Jack Sanford

In 1957, starting pitcher Jack Sanford was the National League Rookie of the Year for the Philadelphia Phillies. Just over a year later, Sanford was traded to the San Francisco Giants.

It would prove to be one of the worst trades in Phillies franchise history. So how and why did this happen? You have to look at the details to understand the Phillies thought process at the time. That process turned out to be wrong. But was it forseeable by the team decision makers of the day?

Let’s start with Sanford himself. Signed by the Phils as an amateur free agent in 1948 as a 19-year old, he began that year with a miserable 3-15 record and 7.20 ERA in 140 innings at the lowest level of the team’s minor league system.

Sanford survived that rough introduction to pro ball, and in 1949 bounced back to go 15-9 with a 4.39 ERA. The following year, while the ‘Whiz Kids’ were winning the NL Pennant, Sanford began to make a name for himself by going 12-4 with a 3.71 ERA.

From 1949-54, a 6-season period in which he aged from 20-25, Sanford went a combined 80-59. He broke the 200 innings pitched level in 4 of those 6 seasons. But he wasn’t given a shot at the Majors.

The biggest problems for the flame-throwing Sanford both involved the same basic issue: discipline. He was known for having a quick temper on the field, and he was also wild. In 4 of the 6 seasons from 1949-54, Sanford walked more than 100 hitters each season.

A 1955 stint in the US Army cost him a full season on the mound, but did wonders for both his personal and professional discipline issues. He returned in time to get a handful of late 1956 innings up with the Phillies, walking 13 in his 13 innings. But he showed enough to be in the mix come the following spring.

In 1957, Sanford not only made the Phillies roster, he put up an epic season. In his first full season at age 28, Sanford went 19-8 with a 3.08 ERA. He allowed just 194 hits in 236.2 workhorse innings. He did walk 94 batters, but he also struck out 188.

For this strong performance, Jack Sanford made the NL All-Star team, and then at season’s end was named as the National League’s Rookie of the Year. He even finished in 10th place in NL MVP balloting.

But then in 1958, Sanford slipped back a bit. He went 10-13, and his ERA rose to the 4.44 mark. His strikeouts dropped to a mere 106, and he allowed more hits than innings pitched, making his 81 walks less tolerable.

The Phillies feared that the pitcher, who was about to turn 30 years old, may have been a flash-in-the-pan during his rookie campaign. Hoping to grab some value for him while it existed, GM Bob Carpenter crafted the trade with the Giants.

Jack Sanford trade one of worst in Phils history
Former Phillies GM Bob Carpenter

In exchange for Sanford, the Phillies received righty starting pitcher Ruben Gomez and backup catcher Valmy Thomas.

Gomez had gone 71-72 and thrown over 1,253 innings across 6 seasons with the Giants.

While not a hard thrower, Gomez didn’t beat himself. He allowed fewer hits than innings pitched, and didn’t have Sanford’s wildness problems.

It seemed like a good deal for the Phillies. They got a guy with a more reliable track record with a longer history of success in exchange for a wild thrower with a temper who appeared might be a one-year wonder.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, to say that it didn’t work out would be an understatement. Over parts of 4 more seasons spread out over a 9 year period, Gomez would pitch just over 200 more total innings.

Thomas lasted just one season as the backup catcher in Philly, and retired after the 1961 season.

Meanwhile, from 1959-63, Sanford would produce an 80-55 record for the Giants, pitching more than 1,200 innings. In all five of those seasons, Sanford pitched more innings than would Gomez pitch in total for the rest of his post-trade career.

In 1962 alone, Sanford went 24-7 with a 3.43 ERA and tossed 265.1 innings, coming in 2nd in NL Cy Young Award voting and 7th in NL MVP balloting. He won 15 games in 1959, 16 in 1963, and made 36 or more starts in each of the 1959-63 seasons.

Finally slipping at age 36 in 1966, Sanford was sold to the California Angels, who transitioned him to a bullpen role. In this new role, Jack Sanford would hang on for a couple more years, even receiving AL MVP votes in 1967.

Sanford finally retired following the 1967 season. He had pitched a dozen years, 9 full seasons after the trade. After leaving Philly he pitched over 1,600 innings and won 107 games.

Why are we visiting with the memory of Jack Sanford and this awful trade for the Phillies? Because today is the trade’s 56th anniversary. The deal which GM Carpenter would call “the worst trade I ever made” went down on this very date in 1958.

American Beauty: Nothing wrong with tats or pageants

God, grant me the courage to change the things I can.

That idea is taken from the famous “Serenity Prayer“, and it also is the motto that the current Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, has adopted as her own personal inspiration to guide her in life.

During the preliminary events to the Miss America Pageant, Vail has gained much publicity this past week, some of it good, some of it not so much, for the thing that separates her from any other contestant in the pageant’s history.

Vail has a tattoo.

We’re not just talking any old tattoo either. Not a little image on the shoulder or calf. We’re talking a full-blown phrase tattooed all the way down the right side of her torso. The tattoo reads with the text of that serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”

She actually has two tattoos, though it is this largest which gains the most attention. She also has tattooed on her left shoulder the insignia of the unit she serves in the U.S. Army Dental Corps, along with the letter ‘D’, for her Dad. You see, not only is Vail a beauty pageant contestant, she is also a member of the Army National Guard.

At age 17, Vail joined the Guard in her home state of Kansas. Turning 23 years old in just over two weeks, she is now the section leader with her Kansas Army National Guard Medical Detachment. She is a Distinguished Honor Graduate of both the Army School of Health Sciences and the Army School of Ordnance. This is a woman who can help her country in both the dental chair and a foxhole.

In her education, Vail is now a senior at Kansas State University, with a dual major in Chemistry and Chinese – she actually speaks Chinese fluently, something picked up in her military travels. An avid outdoors woman, she is an expert archer who has run an all-girls archery clinic, and is an expert marksman with the M16 rifle in the Army.

She is CEO and founder of her own ‘Miss Outdoor’ brand and website, and spokesperson for the hunting company ‘Suburban Woodsman’. Her talent for the pageant? Singing opera style.

As you can see, Theresa Vail is far more than any beauty pageant stereotype. Her platform issue for Miss America is “Empowering Women: Overcoming Stereotypes and Breaking Barriers.” She grew up being bullied as a small child, made fun of due to some childhood dental issues.

Her father, an Army dentist, fixed her teeth at age 10, and she says the results changed her self-image and her entire life. It gave her immense confidence, and has inspired her most important life choices, including her following him into service to her country and the dental profession.

There are many people who have a problem with beauty pageants. Those individuals in general feel that pageants are exploitative of women, or that they emphasize physical beauty too much. The critics say that these pageants and the physical appearance of the women who participate in them lead young girls to feel inferior when they can’t match up to such standards, or hurt themselves trying to reach them. There are also ultra-moralists who simply think that things like a bikini element are immodest, even immoral.

In Vail’s case, there have been critics who, while supportive of the pageant experience, feel her tattoos are nothing to be celebrated. Their comments have been along the lines of the tattoos taking away from some natural beauty that they believe should be the basis of the contestant’s appeal.

One critic to come has been Donald Trump, owner of the Miss Universe Organization which runs the Miss USA pageant: “I don’t understand what’s going on with tattoos. I would certainly not want it. I would not want somebody that I’m close to to have it.

Trump is entitled to his opinion, as are the critics of beauty pageants in general, and bikini competitions in particular. As for me, I feel that there is nothing immodest or immoral about pageants or physical beauty contests. As a man, that type of opinion can be open to it’s own smirking criticism. I don’t care. I think that a beautiful woman with a beautiful body should not be viewed at all negatively, but instead as an inspiration to health.

No, not everyone will reach some perceived ideal, but there should always be examples for all of us to try and emulate to become our own personal best.

As for the tattoos, and in fact pageants as well, to me it is all about the “what” and the “where” and the “why”, and nothing at all to do with the tattoo itself. A positive message or image in an attractive location that does not take away from the rest of a person’s look? I see that as only positive. And if it makes that individual feel better about themselves, all the better, all the more inspirational. Miss Kansas’ tattoo meets the criteria in all of those ways.

Theresa Vail is a fine example for any young woman to look up to: God-loving, attractive, intelligent, educated, self-reliant. She serves her country, and is setting up her life to serve her fellow man in the medical profession.

Critics of her should frankly be ashamed of themselves. This is exactly the kind of young person that we all should be praying for more of in today’s society. No, there is nothing wrong with Theresa, and there is nothing wrong with pageants or tattoos.

Real American Hero: Ty Carter

There are 80 of them as of today, the living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award that a member of the American military can receive. 11 earned their medals in World War II, and 11 more in the Korean War, while 53, by far the highest number, earned their honors in Vietnam.

Carter is one of the 5 younger generation of recipients who have earned their honors in the War in Afghanistan. And he is the most recent as well, having received his CMO three weeks ago for actions that he took almost four years ago now in the United States Army.

Ty Carter was born in the beautiful and peaceful Pacific Northwest region of our country, in Spokane, Washington on January 25th, 1980. His family moved to the Bay area of California a year later, but then went back to Spokane in 1991. Ty graduated from high school there in 1998, and in October of that year he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.

In his Marine service, Ty Carter trained at the Marine Corps Combat Engineer School, served a stint in Okinawa, Japan as an intel clerk, and then in 1999 was sent to Primary Marksmanship Instructor School after showing promise in previous weapons’ marksmanship training. The skill would turn out to be invaluable during his later heroic action.

After serving training deployments in California and then in Egypt, he was finally honorably discharged from the Marines in 2002. He then began a modern day struggle in his personal life. He met a girl while attending Community College classes. They married and had a daughter, but the marriage would not last.

In 2008, Carter decided to get back into the military, enlisting in the U.S. Army as a cavalry scout. From May 2009 through May 2010, he was deployed to serve in the War in Afghanistan with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

During this first deployment in Afghanistan, Carter settled in at Combat Outpost Keating in the Kamdesh District of Nuristan Province in the northeast region of the country not far from the border with Pakistan.

On the early morning hours of October 3rd, 2009, COP Keating came under serious, direct attack from some 300 enemy fighters who had surrounded the camp on the high ground at all four sides. The attackers awakened Carter’s camp with a variety of weapons fire ranging from small handguns to RPG’s, machine guns to mortars.

Carter jumped right into action, carrying ammo from his barracks to another battle position under intense enemy fire, then back again across the same open 100 meters of ground where he retrieved machine gun oil and more ammo. He then made the run under fire a third time to get even more ammo.

Injured within those first moments of the battle, Carter continued to fight on, using his marksmanship skills to drive back enemy that had by that point infiltrated the camp perimeter. He crawled to retrieve more ammo, again under continuing intense enemy fire, and reinforced the camp’s main battle position for a 4th time.

Carter then ran across 30 meters of open ground to a wounded comrade, providing life-extending first aid, and then carried the soldier back across that same ground, all while continually being exposed to enemy fire. He then made a run for the camp’s Tactical Operations Center in order to obtain medical care for that wounded soldier, and also to coordinate recon. During that run he saw the body of a fallen Sergeant, and was able to retrieve that soldier’s radio, enabling the camp to coordinate their evacuation with fellow soldiers.

The battle raged all day and into the night, when reinforcements were able to safely land by helicopter. Almost 2/3 of the coalition soldiers at the camp were casualties, with 8 killed and more than 25 wounded, including Carter. The later examination and investigation of the incident revealed that Carter had exhibited heroic actions and exceptional skill that were critical to the defense of their camp, prevented the enemy from capturing their position, and saved the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Carter, now a Staff Sergeant, received his Congressional Medal of Honor on August 26th, 2013. He has also received the Purple Heart. And in addition, we hope that he has found peace in his personal life as well. He met a woman named Shannon who also had a child from a previous relationship. The two got married, had a child together, and settled down in the town of Antioch, California to raise their mini Brady Bunch.

Specialist Ty M. Carter is not only the most recent recipient of the CMO, but he is also the latest honoree here at the website in the ‘Real American Hero’ series. Begun a few years back, it has been on sabbatical for the last couple of years, but is being revived with this article and will continue in the future.

To see the previous honorees and read their inspiring stories, simply click on the below ‘label’, and remember that clicking on these labels in any story will lead you to other article back through the history of the website which deal with that particular topic.

Real American Hero: Jared Monti

Operation Enduring Freedom began less than a month after the 9/11 attacks on America. Designed to wrestle control of Afghanistan from the Islamofascist Taliban regime and install true democratic reform, the military operation has been highly successful in it’s mission to bring and maintain some sense of stability to what has historically been one of the most difficult to manage areas of the world.

It was to this effort to help stem the rising tide of Islamic terror that 30-year old U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti of Massachusetts deployed in June of 2006. A career soldier, Monti loved his country and had joined the army at age 17. His Afghanistan deployment would find him serving as a forward observer with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.

Upon his arrival, his 71st Cavalry Regiment, a recon team, was preparing for what was known as ‘Operation Gowerdesh Thrust’ in the Gremen Valley near the Pakistan border. This are had been used for troop movements and as a staging area by enemy combatants, and so it was deemed important to secure.

While the main squadron would move through to clear the Valley, Monti was assigned as a part of their supporting recon mission. His group of scouts and snipers would move along a ridge line above the Valley and provide real-time intelligence as to the enemy’s troop and equipment movements during the operation.

After spending the night of June 20th into the 21st alternating rest with recon assignments, Jared Monti began to prepare for his role as an assistant leader of the 16-man recon patrol that would move through these rugged mountains of Nurestan province in Northern Afghanistan. What the young military veteran had no way of knowing was that it would be his final wakeup call.

It turned out that Monti’s group had it’s original assignment length extended by a few days, and they were already running low on water and food. A decision was made to organize a ‘drop’ of these critical supplies. Monti and another Staff Sergeant led a patrol to pickup the supply drop and return it to their main camp.

During their return, one of the observers for the team left back at camp had believed that he observed an enemy scout pickup Monti’s patrol through binoculars, and thus believed that their position was no longer secure. As dusk began to fall on Monti’s return, discussions began to ensue as to whether to move their position.

At approximately 6:45pm local time, Monti’s group suddenly came under heavy fire from a wooded area to their rear. A group of 50 enemy combatants fired on them with RPG’s, machine guns and small arms and began to move towards them. The ferocity of the enemy fire knocked weapons from the men’s hands and one, Private Brian Bradbury, was wounded.

It was here that Monti began his date with heroic destiny. He organized a quick response and defense, and also called in for air and artillery support. These actions alone kept his small group from being completely overrun early on in the attack.

Then, disregarding his own safety, Monti moved to rescue the fallen Bradbury. On his first attempt he was driven back by heavy enemy fire. Unfazed, Monti waited it out and made another move but was again driven back by heavy enemy fire. Finally, Monti made a 3rd attempt to rush to Bradbury’s aid. This time an RPG exploded nearby, mortally wounding Monti and finally ending his heroic attempts to rescue his brother soldier.

As irony would have it, thanks to Monti’s calls a rescue mission did indeed arrive. But as a Medevac chopper was raising the wounded Bradbury and another injured soldier, a winch cable broke and the two men plummeted to their deaths.

Command Sgt. Major James Redmore stated it perfectly in summing up Monti’s actions on the battlefield that day. “They’re being overwhelmed by an enemy force. He’s calmly calling in fire, which breaks up the enemy force, and he’s going out to try to retrieve one of his fallen comrades. He does it once, twice, a third time. Is it extraordinary? Absolutely. Would every man have the ability to muster the courage to do that? No, I don’t believe they would.”

Staff Sergeant Monti was posthumously promoted to Sergeant 1st Class the next day. He was later posthumously awarded with the Medal of Honor, the highest military award given by the U.S. government. His citation begins with the statement that his honor was “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” The actions of brave men like Jared Monti are what gave America it’s freedom to begin with, and that enable us to remain free and to help extend the opportunity for liberty and freedom throughout the world.

NOTE: this is the continuation of the regular feature “Real American Heroes”, all entries of which can be viewed by clicking on that label below this article at the http://www.mattveasey.com website